I’ll never forget the students I met at Associated Youth Services Academy, an alternative school for middle and high school students who are long-term suspended from the Kansas City, Kansas, school system.
While serving as a Team Leader with YVC of Greater Kansas City, I worked with these students twice a week as part of an In School service program to bring transformational YVC service projects to youth who may otherwise not have the opportunity to volunteer.
During the holiday season, the students and I made cards to deliver to residents at Posada del Sol, a nearby retirement home. My class consisted of 10 or 12 students, most of whom were older teens and only one was a girl. Needless to say, they were less than excited to spend a class period doing what they considered to be ‘girly crafts.’
It wasn’t until the following week when we delivered the cards that the students really got the message.
We knocked on each door and gave each resident a handmade card and wished them a happy holiday. I had never witnessed these students being shy during any of my lessons, but when we knocked on the first door, they all became sheepish. Then the resident came out and flashed a huge smile at our gesture, and the students started arguing over who got to deliver the next card.
Each student made an impression on the residents that day, but 16 year-old James truly touched one lady’s heart. She couldn’t have been 5’ tall and must have weighed less than 100 lbs., which created quite a contrast next to 6’4”, 300 lb. James.
James gave her the card, and she started crying—explaining how this was her first Christmas without her beloved sister, and she was so grateful to have someone think of her.
She was able to reach up to give James a hug, and I will never forget the image of that beautifully awkward gesture. She didn’t know that James was a struggling student caught up in drugs and violence. She just saw him as another human being showing he cared about her.
Lacey Helmig is the Communications and Media Coordinator for YVC. She began with YVC as an AmeriCorps member in 2009, where she learned from Youth Volunteers the most efficient way to mulch a nature center trail, how to play Ninja, and the undeniable fact that youth can change the world.
Would you like to give a gift this holiday season that has the potential to be just as transformational as James’ handmade card? Donate to YVC to help show youth like James the joy of giving back.